What war powers does Bush think he has?
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Much of the discussion about how to stop Bush from attacking Iran -- including the recent announcement by a retired colonel on CNN that we have forces there already -- misses something pretty big, which is that he shouldn't have the power to launch any kind of war without the sayso of Congress. I've seen polls proudly displaying massive public disatisfaction with the idea of attacking Iran and all kinds of other devices of persuasion, but they all appear to concede to the idea that the president has the power to launch.
A "Democratic Party" position on Iran need not immediately address whether we should attack -- it should address whether the president already has congressional authority to wage war on Iran, or whether this is something on which Congress needs to vote.
The White House thinks it already has the authority. Read the cocky, arrogant statement Bush made when he signed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 (from a Congressional Research Service report) --
While the President noted he had sought a "resolution of support" from Congress to use force against Iraq, and appreciated receiving that support, he also stated that:
...my request for it did not, and my signing this resolution does not, constitute any change in the long-standing positions of the executive branch on either the President's constitutional authority to use force to deter, prevent, or respond to aggression or other threats to U.S. interests or on the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution."
And, after reading this huge report on the War Powers Resolution of 1973, I gotta say, it makes the whole "obscure" Unitary Executive conspiracy look downright amateur compared to the out-in-the-open war power presidents have declared since 1973. Just check out "Appendix 1. Instances Reported under the War Powers Resolution." It's a pretty steady buildup in the number of presidential invocations over the past 30 years -- especially Clinton.
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.